I was once asked to provide professional development training for a large, urban school district in the south newly ignited by the pressures of urgent, immediate reform. Prior to the start of my workshop, the Superintendent of the district arrived and decided to offer what we’ll today call “motivation” for the faculty and administration gathered. The Superintendent began by explaining why the training in which they were all about to participate was essential and the ways the children of the district were to benefit from the minutes and fiscal resources invested in the workshop.
And then the tone shifted a bit.
Teachers and administrators were told that the superintendent was committed to success and as such would make it the number one priority for the coming year to help each employee of the district find the last position in which they were most successful-central office administrators who had been more successful leading an individual school would be reassigned to a school or released to find success elsewhere; principals who had been more successful as teachers would return to the classroom or be released to find success elsewhere; and teachers who had been more successful as students would be required to complete additional coursework and incorporate new learning into their teaching or be released to find success elsewhere.
The superintendent finished speaking and then, immediately, it was my turn to begin the workshop. I was instantly aware that there would be some time before anyone in the room would be receptive to the training I was about to begin, recognizing that most of the educators were digesting the ways they had been “motivated” by the Superintendent’s words. I quickly thumbed through icebreakers in my memory, assessed punchlines of jokes for compatibility to the region and state I was in. I knew the room needed a period-space-space before the narrative continued. And so I stood, walked to the front of the room, and before I could speak, a woman seated near me said aloud,
“now that, child, is what I call a moment of clarity.”
The room laughed (perhaps somewhat uncomfortably) and the day (perhaps somewhat uncomfortably) began.
Behavior plans. Lesson planning. Parent conferences. Grading papers. Analyzing data from assessments. Teaching. IEP reports. Progress reports for student athletes. Completing professional development courses. Union committee meetings. Department or team meetings and planning. Superintendent “motivational” speeches. We’ve got a lot on our professional plates, which always seem to be exceedingly full regardless of the demands of our personal lives. The requirements of the teaching profession have billowed in ways that can obscure our essential purpose, teaching and learning-if we allow it. And so in the organized chaos of our work, it’s nice to dwell in those moments when our purpose, the ways to achieve that purpose, and the absolute expectation to effectively satisfy that purpose all seem wide-open and available to us. It’s nice to have that moment of clarity but it’s better when the uncovering of such a moment is inspired, rather than imposed.
Ours is a profession that is routinely ripe with the ability to make personal choices and set priorities near to our individual professional callings. We choose a particular order of instruction, the specific research-based strategies we use for differentiation, the most appropriate response to assessment data. We choose summer workshops to fill requirements or pique an interest. We choose when needs determine that we seek a different grade level assignment or a new school assignment or the next credential to attain. Equally available, however, is the option to make choices mindlessly, without benefit of deliberation or direction.
For most educators, now is the time in which we anticipate the start of summer with renewed vigor-seeing the tape pulled taught across the finish line, we run a little harder to the end. So maybe now is a good time to actively seek that inspired moment of clarity. Don’t just wait on the inspiration to come. Go get it!!!
Are you truly successful in your current assignment? What tangible results do you cite for yourself when no one else is there to question or care? With so much at stake for our children, have you allowed the organized chaos of the teaching profession to wilt your commitment? Whether you complete training, work in a summer program, or sip adult beverages on a sandy beach, the summer can only revitalize if you’re consciously vigilant in getting what you need, if you’re deliberately responding to that inspired moment of clarity.